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Rahul Gandhi defamation row: Is the ‘Modi’ government becoming autocratic?

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Recently the whole Rahul Gandhi defamation row has led many political pundits to question the motives of the current government. Some have even gone to the extent of saying that the hon’ble Prime Minister is afraid of Mr. Gandhi’s continuous questioning on Adani or whatnot and that the government has become a tad bit fascist. In answering these questions let us first analyse the situation of Mr. Gandhi. 

On 23rd March the judicial court of Surat sentenced Rahul Gandhi to jail for a period of 2 years which also led to his disqualification from the parliament for 8 years on the premise of a complaint filed by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi in 2019 when Rahul Gandhi made derogatory remarks on the surname Modi

At a rally in Kolar, Karnataka in 2019 , Rahul Gandhi said, “Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi… how come they all have Modi as common surname? How come all these thieves have Modi as the common surname? “

Now this statement has been altered by many channels to show that he is targeting all the Modis but it is all the thieves he is targeting. Whatever might be the technicality but such a statement is not appreciable coming from a politician with high stature belonging to a party with a grand historical legacy. 

However this is not the only defamation case of which Rahul Gandhi has been accused of. In 2014 he was summoned by Bhiwandi court, Maharashtra on the premise of complaint filed by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member Rajesh Kunte Mishra where Rahul Gandhi during a rally for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls said, “This is their style, Gandhi ji was killed by them; persons from the RSS shot Gandhi ji, and today their people talk of him.” The complaint was registered under sections 499 & 500 of the IPC . It was scheduled for hearing on 1st April which has been further adjourned till 15th April.

Now there are two factors to this situation. First, that Mr. Gandhi unknowingly and continuously does such publicity stunts by giving non acceptable statements. Second, it is the tendency of the leading party that is BJP to kick down their opposition in every situation. It is quite easily visible that the scenario is an amalgamation of both the factors as the former member of Parliament has been getting himself into trouble with such statements and we can also see that most of those cases are filed by MLA’s or contemporaries of BJP.

What is also perplexing is the time at which the judgement came and the severeness of punishment allotted to Mr. Gandhi. Maximum punishment for a first time offender remains confusing for many people , judges and political experts. Also, the decision comes at a time when many states are having elections this year and central elections are scheduled to take place next year with Rahul Gandhi consolidating his position due to his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and Adani Hindenburg crisis.

The judgement which sidelined the leader of the major opposition party might be too convenient for the ones who are benefitting from it, but still does it signal that the government is becoming fascist. The National Crime Record Bureau revealed a rapid increase in the sedition cases since BJP came to power in 2014 . The reports have highlighted how the government had been using sedition charges as a device for tackling protest and unfavourable conditions of public criticism.

The reports also show that there had been a 28% increase annually in sedition cases. Aclassic example of this is the Disha Ravi Toolkit Case where a 22 year old girl gained attention when she provided the farmers protesting with a toolkit for procedures during protest relating to Greta Thunberg (an international activist) and was charged with sedition.

However last year on 11th May the sedition law was told to be kept in abeyance where centre and state were directed not to register any fresh FIR invoking the offence until a re-examination by an appropriate government body which is a positive step and rules out the element of fascism, but it is time to put this colonial law I to dustbin which takes away the core essence of democracy.

The Rahul Gandhi case has proved that the contemporary politics is not moving in the direction in which our nationalist leaders envisaged where the opposition is not able to present any challenge to the leading party and due to this leading party is unable to see their faults and is more focused on maintaining their power rather than welfare of the people which is a major problem for the polity of the country

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